Bridal - bridle

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Bridal and bridle form one of the sets of homophones listed by the then Poet Laureate Robert Bridges.
(For more, see Bridges homophones). AWE has a category listing our articles on each of these.

Bridal and bridle are confused by some writers. Don't be one of them.

  • Bridal is the adjective formed from 'bride'. A bride is the woman being married in a wedding. Her male equivalent is a bridegroom, usually contracted in current use to 'groom'. The word originally meant not the woman but the process: a 'bridal' was a wedding.
  • A bridle is "The head-gear of the harness of a horse or other beast of burden, consisting of a head-stall, bit, and rein, by which the animal is controlled and guided" (OED).

Both these words have various figurative meanings. In Christianity, the church, in the sense of 'all the faithful', or all Christians, is often seen as "the bride of Christ". People other than horsemen can put a bridle on their passions, or desires, or rages.

There is a verb 'to bridle', which means 'to put a harness on the head of a horse, or similar animal to prepare it to be ridden'. This also has figurative uses; but it also has a further use: "To throw up the head and draw in the chin, (as a horse does when reined in), expressing pride, vanity, or resentment; to assume a dignified or offended air or manner" (OED).